MacWrite was a WYSIWYG word processor application released along with the first Apple Macintosh systems in 1984. Together with MacPaint, it was one of the two original "killer applications" that propelled the adoption and popularity of the GUI in general, and the Mac in particular.
When the Mac was first being created, it was clear that users would interact with it differently from other personal computers. Typical computers of the era booted into text-only DOS or BASIC command line environments, requiring the users to type in commands to run programs. Some of these programs may have presented a graphical user interface of their own, but on the Mac, users would instead be expected to stay in the standard GUI both for launching and running programs. Having an approachable, consistent GUI was an advantage for the Mac platform, but unlike prior personal computers, the Mac was sold with no programming language built-in.
This presented a problem to Apple: the Mac was due to be launched in 1983 (originally), with a new user interface paradigm, but no third-party software would be available for it, nor could users easily write their own. Users would end up with a computer that did nothing. In order to fill this void, several members of the Mac team took it upon themselves to write simple applications to fill these roles until third-party developers published more full-fledged software. The result was MacWrite and MacPaint, which shipped free with every Macintosh from 1984 to 1986.
The MacWrite development team was a company called Encore Systems, founded and led by Randy Wigginton, one of Apple's earliest employees, and included Don Breuner and Ed Ruder (co-founders of Encore Systems and also early Apple employees; Gabreal Franklin later joined Encore Systems as President.) Wigginton, who had left Apple in 1981, maintained a relationship with many Apple employees, many of whom were on the Macintosh development team. He agreed to lead the MacWrite development team on a semi-official basis. Before it was released, MacWrite was known as "Macintosh WP" (Word Processor) and "MacAuthor". Allegedly, Steve Jobs was not convinced of his team's abilities, and secretly started up another project just to be sure; its development was eventually released as WriteNow.
The first versions of MacWrite were rather limited, supporting only the most basic editing features and able to handle just a few pages of text before running into performance problems. (Early versions of MacWrite held the entire document in memory, and early versions of the Macintosh had relatively little free memory.) Nevertheless, it increased user expectations of a word processing program. MacWrite established the conventions for a GUI-based word processor, with such features as a toolbar for selecting paragraph formatting options, font and style menus, and a ruler for tabs, margins, and indents. Similar word processors followed, including the first GUI version of Microsoft Word and WriteNow, which addressed many of MacWrite's limitations while adhering to much the same user interface.
The original Mac could print to a dot matrix printer called the ImageWriter, but quality was only adequate. The later LaserWriter laser printer allowed dramatically better output, at a price. However, the possibilities of the GUI/MacWrite/LaserWriter combination were obvious and this, in turn, spurred the development of desktop publishing, which became the "killer app" for the Mac and GUIs in general.
MacWrite's inclusion with the Macintosh discouraged developers from creating other word processing software for the computer. Apple unbundled the software with the introduction of the Macintosh Plus, requiring customers to purchase it for the first time. Strong sales continued, and Apple eventually let MacWrite and MacPaint languish with no development resources assigned to improving them.
Unfortunately this plan backfired. Users flooded Apple with complaints, demanding newer versions that would keep pace with new features in the Mac, while at the same time developers flooded Apple with complaints about there being any possibility of an upgrade. Apple finally decided the only solution was to spin off the products as a separate company, Claris.
May 10, 2017 Subject:
Still the best
Personally, I still think this app is better than some even the latest offerings from Microsoft!
I still remember using resedit to add the Command N, O, P, Q keys (and more) to make it work like MS Word did. A great product and what made it better than most of today's offerings... because it was true WYSIWYG, with today's multitude of screen resolutions, font offerings, printer options etc... WYSIWYG seems like a thing of the past.